Creating Learning Engagement to Drive Performance

Organizations talk about making learning more “learner-centric” and improving the learner experience, but many are unsure what exactly that entails. Perhaps there is too much focus on the ease-of-use and functionality of technology that, while important, is not the sum of the learner experience. User experience is only one small part of the bigger picture.

Additionally, most companies still deliver learning in a very event-based environment, giving learners very little connection to the learning goals and the business. It can also be difficult to get the information and knowledge they need, when they need it.

Learning Modalities Most Consistently Used

Today’s learners cannot thrive in an outmoded learning environment. Business moves too quickly for an event-based approach to meet their needs. People are accustomed to quickly getting the relevant information, when and where they need it. No one has the time or patience to wade through mountains of irrelevant material, click mindlessly through slides or passively watch as information is dumped on them. This is especially true if they feel scant connection between their work and the learning experience.

Top Challenges to Personalized Learning

A poor experience separates the learning from the work and the learner from the learning. The act of engaging with learning is perceived as an event outside the scope of the job and even disruptive. Without a connection to skills, competencies or business needs, engagement becomes an uphill battle before the learner has started the interaction.

Importance of Personalized Learning in Driving Outcomes

• What drives learner engagement?

• Is learning well aligned with business outcomes?

• Do we have the tools, skills and data to personalize learning?

• Do learners know why the learning matters to them?

It takes far more than a slick user interface to engage learners. It is much less about branding, colors and imagery than about context and connections. Learners need learning that solves their challenges and gives them what they require to perform and grow. We should stop treating learning as an “eat your vegetables” exercise, where the organization knows what’s good for its employees, whether they want it or not.

• Give learners a connection to the learning. Provide a link between the learning and learners’ personal objectives, as well as the expected goals and outcomes. “Because I said so” is not only not engaging, but a detrimental approach to learning.

• Personalize the learning. Provide recommendations based on what is known about the learner: their role, development path, previous training, etc. Learners become engaged when they feel something is relevant. Context is everything.

• Give learners ownership of their learning. With accountability comes engagement. Giving learners a personalized learning path so they can track their own progress. Allow them to search and explore but make sure they are presented relevant, contextual results.

• Make learning continuous. “One and done” will not make learning stick. Engage learners continuously with opportunities to practice and apply the knowledge and skills they acquire. Provide methods to reinforce learning concepts over time.

• Listen to your learners. It’s hard to engage people if you have no idea what they want. Provide ample opportunities for feedback — beyond simple smile sheets. Find out when/where/how they like to learn.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.